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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cleaning Dirty Paint Brushes

There are many different types of paints and paint brushes that are made to use with the different types of paints that may require a certain kind of brush fiber to be used.

Because of this, when cleaning your brush, there is more than one way that is required to remove the paint from the brush.

Let’s look at the different types of paints, brushes, and bristles used.


Acrylic, Acoustic, Gloss, Latex, Matte, Oil Based, Primer, Resin, Rubber-based, Semi-Gloss, Textured, and Water Based


Angular, Angle Flat, Bright, Chinese Bristle Brush, Chisel Blender, Filbert, Flat, Flathead, Oval Wash, Pointed Round, and Round


Natural hair bristles from animals: badgers, camel, hogs, and sable.

Synthetic hair bristles are made from polyester and nylon.

Flagged synthetic bristles are typically made from nylon with split bristle ends. This helps to hold paint on the brush. These types of brushes are usually used with a Latex based paint.

Now let’s take a look at some of the cleaning solutions.

Cleaning a Paint Brush

Keep this in mind before you soak your paint brush - use only enough cleaning solution to cover the bristles. You don’t want to soak the ferrule (the metal band).

Oil and Latex Paints

Brushes can be cleaned with the use of mineral spirits, acetone or turpentine.

Water Based Paint

Clean brushes with warm water and soap.

If there is any paint that is hard to remove from the bristles, use a paint brush comb.

How to Clean a Wet Paint Brush

Remember, you can always check the back and the paint can for instructions and the suggested cleaning method for the paint you use.

Here is a list of things you should remember as well:

  • Before cleaning, wipe off as much of the excess paint as you can. You can do this on newspaper, a paint cloth, etc.
  • Unless you’ve had a large painting party, only a small container is necessary to hold the cleaning solution you’ll be using. I use an old coffee can I’ve had for years.
  • Wear protective eye-wear and gloves when using solvents.
  • Clean brushes in a well-ventilated place. I typically clean mine outside.

Let’s get to cleaning those brushes!

    1.   Put the brush in the cleaning solution until the bristles are covered and swish the brush around.
    2.   Occasionally stop and squeeze the paint from the bristles either by squeezing from top to bottom with your hands or by swiping on the side of the container.
    3.   Use the paint brush comb to get out any bits of paint that are stuck on the bristles.
    4.   Continue with the steps above until the brush is clean.
    5.   When finished, lay brush flat on paper towels and let air dry.
    Here’s an easy tip for storing your brush at the end of the day when you’re not finished painting and will be picking up where you left off the next day.

    I have done this many times and it’s saved me from having to clean the paint brush every night.

      1.  Wrap the brush in a saran wrap and make sure it’s sealed so no air seeps in.
      2.  Wrap it in aluminum foil over the plastic wrap and again, seal well.
      3.  Store in freezer.
      Before you’re ready to paint the next day, take your brush out of the freezer to thaw and paint as usual.

      Storing Your Clean Paint Brush

      Store the paint brush either by hanging it on a peg, laying it flat so the bristles don’t bend, and store them in the jacket they came in if you still have it to keep the bristles close together.

      You can also put a touch of Vaseline on the bristles after cleaning and storing. If you do this, remember to rinse the bristles with paint thinner before you paint.

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